The stories behind the day's headlines, including gas prices, the new Chinese leadership, and should politics and soaps mix? With Emily Maitlis.
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Has the cost of our gas been subject to price-fixing, two
whistleblowers say they fear market manipulation. How extensive can the
practice be? I think the opportunity to make illicit gains
through market manipulation, could be too great for some companies to
resist it. These two might know if the fix is really in. One sixth of
the world's population is about to be told whom its new leader will be.
We will be live in Beijing to find out how the new guard is different
from the old guard, and what it means to the rest of us.
Thousands of civilians were killed in the last months of Sri Lanka's
civil war, now a leaked report obtained by the BBC, say there were
grave failures by the UN to protect them. There were people to protect
the population, they left at the moment when the population needed
them more than ever. The Government wanted them out of the way,
essentially because they didn't want anyone to see what was
happening. Also tonight. Something was biting me, and I thought it was
a rat biting me, my fear is rats. Do politicians and popular culture
mix? And does soap operas have a duty to reflect political reality.
We have Phil Redmond, Christine Hamilton, and Lembit Opik to
discuss. Good evening, the Energy Secretary
has promised the full force of the law will be used against anyone
involved in attemptss to rig the gas market. Ofgem, the Financial
Services Authority, are investigating gas companies, and
the wholesale gas market, after a whistleblower claimed it was being
manipulated. The main companies, known as the big six, deny any
wrongdoing, the claim, by suggests evidence of suspect trading, comes
as customers have soaring price, some gas bills rising 10% over the
course of the year. This is my gas thermostat, I leave
it on all the time, upstairs I have a switch and I adjust t I put it on
one or two hours an evening, I can't afford to keep it on all the
time. Helen peters is more than fuel poor, her income totals �70 a
week, half of that goes on gas and electricity.
If I had had to choose between keeping warm for me and my daughter
and family and grandchild, or buy food, I will cut down on the food.
I have cut down on the food a lot. So has all my family. Everybody has
to pay electric and gas. The price that they are at the moment is, you
know, especially with this cold weather coming, I think it is
diabolical. Helen says she has been storing food for the winter, to get
her through the colder months. Far removed from the cold reality of
fuel poverty is a neb Luis world, where the gas price that hell --
nebbu Luis world, where the gas price Helen has to pay, decided by
gas providers who never had to face the choice between food and fuel.
From that energy world, a whistleblower has emerged, saying
the wholesale market is rigged and there is little we can do about it.
It has become apparent to me, having spoken to traders who set
the gas price on a daily basis for most of 2012, that people are
worried about manipulation, and there are several key examples
where it appears prices have been fixed. Not many insiders get their
concerns aired so quickly in the House of Commons, but this is a
world post-banking scandal, where soaring gas prices and national
austerity have pressed politicians into action, vocal action, at least.
At the early stage in the investigation, Mr Speaker, it is
not possible to understand what the impact on country sumeers,
companies or markets may have been, -- consumers, companies or markets
have been, if the allegations are made to be true. I can assure the
House of our absolute determination to uncover any abuse wherever and
by whoever. I see it as my job to protect consumer, not least the
most vulnerable, who can suffer the most when markets are abused.
This is how the energy market currently works. Those companies
which actually find oil and gas are called upstream generators, they
sell their produce into an openly traded market. Energy suppliers,
called downstream suppliers, who sell to you and me, buy from this
market. There is a less transparent market called the over-the-counter
market, where one gas producer signs a private deal to supply
energy to somebody else. These contracts are rarely published and
opaque. Now the spotlight is falling on the energy trading
market as a whole, which can have a huge impact on the final price that
lafpbdz as a bill on our doorstep - - lands as a bill on our doorsteps.
Ofgem, the watchdog, is examining the wholesale gas market to see if
it is fixed or not. All of the big six said none of their traders are
involved in price faxing, and the market is d fixing, and the market
is open. A smaller energy supplier says otherwise. I think the
opportunity to make illicit gains, through market manipulation could
be too great for some companies to resist it. When you look at the way
in which some of these companies are trading on the market, it can
be very difficult to say whether or not there is any illicit behaviour
or not. I think the biggest thing we need is more transparency. The
Government can try to regulate for. That the best thing I think they
could do is regulate for more competition and the market forces
take care of it itself. Let's get an idea of who gets what from the
average energy bill, which consumers have to pay. The average
dual fuel British Gas bill comes to �1,025 annually. Nearly half of
that, or �475 goes to the wholesale market, which is now being probed.
Distribution, or getting the fuel to your home accounts for �245 of
the total, the Government takes �152 through VAT and other tax, and
British Gas says �100 goes to cover its operating costs, with the final
�53, or 5% of the total bill going to the company's net profit.
heating and the electric, that is essentials, these are most basic
essentials, and I think that it is the basic essentials of life,
living in this country, is that people are struggling. It is
worrying, it is really Worcesterying for the old people.
For the people with children -- it is really worrying for the old
people, for the people with children everyone. The bastions of
society, banking, journalism, they have been exposed in the last few
years. The energy sector, which none of us can avoid, will hope too
that it won't join the Rogues' Gallery.
Joining me is the director of external affairs at the pressure
group Consumer Focus, and one of the men at the heart of the story,
Patrick Heren. Do you recognise this description of rogue
transactions we have heard, from not one, but two whistleblowers
this evening? I recognise the occasional tendency of traders to
try to move the price at the end of the day. But what I would like to
say about this is that the journalist concerned, who is being
described as a whistleblower, was a man who clearly didn't do his job
properly. Why do you say that? Because he had an inkling that
there was something wrong, he didn't make the phone calls that he
should have done. He didn't go back and speak to his colleagues or do a
wide range of other gas traders. With the intention of, as it were,
discounting those rogue trades, or those apparently rogue trades.
many times do you think there are these rogue trades made. Does it
always depend on somebody to have to meantally discount it, or report
upwards. It sound like it happens a lot? It doesn't happen a lot, or
not in my experience. The last time I could remember it happening was
about five or six years ago. And in that case, it was a series of
transactions that went in on the close about a penny above where the
true value was of the market. We recognise that, we agonised over it.
When I say "we", I and my staff and my editors. We spent an hour, hour-
and-a-half discussing it and talking to a wide range of traders.
From what Patrick is saying, this is something that a company like
Heren, the benchmark pricing company, can sort out themselves.
Are you confident about that? not comfortable that the day job of
Heren, when Patrick was there, and subsequently, is to filter out
willful distortion and manipulation of the market. Even a 1p on the
price of a firm, multiplied by the volumes in the gas market is
enormous. This is a market which has such low levels of consumer
confidence and trust already, these allegations are really corrosive.
Are you comfortable that you are essentially the gateway for any
decision on the gas wholesale market? Yes, I'm no longer the
gateway, I haven't been the gateway for five years. In the sense of
your company, you founded a company that basically becomes the
benchmark? So it is very open to manipulation, presumably? I don't
think it is very open to manipulation. The thing about a
market, maybe most people haven't dealt with markets. The thing about
a market is it is full of buyers and sellers. But the allegation is
not that it is full of buyers and sellers, the allegation is that
there are people within it, who may sell, or may buy at one price, but
they tell you that they are doing something different, that's the
manipulation? Yes, there are people who sometimes try to do that. Let
me finish the point. You put this to me. The job of a price reporter
is to work out who is doing that. And to correct for it. Can I say,
also, if we have the supposed alternative to this, which might be,
say, a complete electronic market, on which all trades were cleared.
There would be no possibility then of correcting the kind of skewed
trades that go in here. Clearly this is an incredibly complicated
system, with very little transparency, that is what the
consumer takes away from this. But does this actually mean that our
prices have been rigged by this kind of behaviour? I think what we
need to find out. I think Patrick is right, commodity trading is open
to these sorts of risks. Wholesale energy is more important than
commodity trading and cocoa beans, it is important it is above board
and seen to be such. What we don't know is whether the allegations of
manipulation of the market, that the whistleblowers have come out
with, made a material difference to the actual wholesale, the benchmark
price. Do you fear that has happened? I fear, if it is a
possibility, let alone a probability, that is the basis for
a thorough investigation from the FSA. I would say, if you have two
things coming together, which is, a not uncommon practice of traders to
gain the market, and the possibility that could have an
impact on the benchmark price of wholesale gas, I think there is
something fundamentally wrong with the wholesale gas market, we need
to have a body like the Competition Commission, that can come in, and
as Patrick was alluding to, find better and more efficient markets
moderator. And consumers can be assured of one thing, they are
paying a fair price for commodities, based on supply and demand.
would have to agree with that? entirely, no. The system as it is
works reasonably well. The thing is, let's keep this in context in
proportion. This was one price, that this chap got wrong, which he
should not have got wrong. Which was, which was moved by less than
half a penny a thermat to 60p a they wereat. It was gas for the
next day. It wouldn't have made a difference? For the gas household
price it wouldn't have made a difference. That is contestable,
even a penny on the price of they were, with the volumes of trades
going through -- therm, with the volumes of trades going through.
There are two specific allegations of a day's trading, if the FSA says
these are two rogue events after investigation, we have an issue.
Ifs something more, if there is a culture, even in part of the
trading community, saying this is the common way of behaving in trade
to go gain the market. I'm very uncomfortable with that, there
needs to be more investigation about whether we have a fair market
price for gas that reflects its cost.
Thank you very much. By this time tomorrow, China will be on the cusp
of announcing its new leader, a moment that could have
ramifications for the rest of the world. The last leadership change
was ten years ago, since then, China's power has grown hugely, and
so, for some, has the economic threat the country now poses. We're
in Beijing with Paul Mason. Hello from Beijing, where a
freezing cold dawn is breaking on what will be the last day of the
18th Congress of the Communist Party. Never before have so many
flowers been arranged in straight lines, hands raised in unison. Here
at the Congress, behind the scenes, there is a debate raising.
According to the official news agency today, there are three
debates going on, about equal rights, equal opportunities, and
what they say, equality before the law. The rule of law. And it is
this last thing that is focusing people's attention. One official
daily newspaper, down in the south of the country, said in its
editorial yesterday, said some party delegates think privileges
people can find a good job based on their father's influence, and some
people have better access to better medical care. Any taxi driver will
tell you that. The fact it is discussed behind the scenes at the
party conference is important. It is not just an abstract debate, the
outgoing leadership, under Hu Jintao, has been wanting to deliver
on the social agenda. The in coming leadership, Deng Xiaoping, is
aligned to an older group, to be, frank, their trade marks have been
crackdowns and economic liberalisation and all the
inequality that comes with it, and not a great record on corruption.
In 48 hours time we find out the final balance between those two
groups inside the Communist Party. And joining me to discuss what the
outcomes could be, is a man who should know, the Sydney Morning
Herald's China correspondent, and author of recent book about the
disgraced party leader. How real are the debates? It is a very real
debate. This is a very exciting time we are here, in and outside of
the party, on the left and right, everybody agrees on the very
problems that you outlined. It is about corruption, it is about neppo
ism, justice and law d nepotisim, justice and law. Until now, nobody
has agreed on a solution. The question is whether there is a
radio map and the party. All of these things mean the party loosens
its grip, a little bit, on power, and whether it has the ability to
do that, nobody knows. As a drama it is like hamlet without the ghost.
Bo Shi Lii is gone, he's dismissed, how is that playing in the Great
Hall of the People? It is very difficult to overstate the
importance of it. This is the first time in the modern era where
everything has been blown open. We have had a peak peek -- peek into
the core of the system, it looks nasty, abuse of power, corruption,
torture, and it was run like a personal kingdom, this is not the
way the Communist Party is supposed to operate. Since then we have seen
layers, new layers of cynicism and new questions about the legitimacy
of the party, and an even more pressing acknowledgement. It blows
open the whole transition process. It means that the rules, that
everybody thought were there, really it shows that somebody, that
chaos can intervene into the apparent order? I think that's very
true. One thing, Bo Shi Li had genius, one of those things was
recognising we are in a new era, all the elders have gone, there is
no natural source of legitimacy. long March veterans? No, and you
need to compete internally. Everyone recognises they have to
convince, not the old guy on top, but their peers, to do that they
have to convince them they have the answer for the country. This is a
very vigorous contested time. Outside the great hall, we are --
great hall. We are above one of the great streets in Beijing, it is a
buzzing city. There is the other China, there is the China of the
internet. What do you pick up from the social media, such as it is
allowed to exist here, about people's reactions to the Congress?
There is two Chinas, there are the people on-line, and people who get
their news from CCTV, really. Chinese state television? That's
right. People who are on-line, in a completely new mind set, it is
unrecoginsable from even three or four years ago, how people can
connect to each other, share each other's problems, realising that
the official that is causing them trouble is part of the same system
that is causing their friends trouble. I think what this does is
it is a demokyiesing technology, whether the party changes --
dedemocratising technology whether the party change or not.
effective Government, the party leadership, what is the best guess
as to the final balance, and what does it mean when we find the final
balance between the two factions? You mentioned Hu Jintao, he has
been under a huge amount of pressure lately. One of the
extraordinary things is it looks like the guy that was supposed to
have retired ten years ago may be more powerful than anybody else in
the country. There is nothing in the constitution that says that
should be so. But it might be so. So we will get a much better idea
tomorrow. One of the key questions is whether there is two of Hu
Jintao's guys known as more reformist than others, if they miss
out it is a real question. It could end up there is stuff to play for,
for once at a CCP Congress? People say all time this is about the
future of China. Thank you. Signing off, we will be back for
the rest of this week, for the all- important finale to this Congress,
over to you in the studio. Hope it gets warmer. Thank you very
much. An internal United Nations report, seen by the BBC, says the
UN was responsible for a grave failure to protect civilians in the
final stage of Sri Lanka's civil war, three-and-a-half years ago.
The draft report says senior UN staff in Colombo didn't see it as
their responsibility, to prevent the killings. The UN's estimated at
least 40,000 were killed in the final months of that conflict.
It had been one of the world's longest-running and bloodiest civil
wars. In May 2009, a quarter century of battle ended on the
shores of this Indian Ocean island. Government forces crushed the last
of the Tamil Tigers. They had fought for a Tamil state in this
northern peninsula. Now, all rebel leaders were dead.
So were tens of thousands of civilians.
In the years since then the United Nations and others have found
evidence of abuses for both sides, and possible war crimes. Now the UN
has investigated itself for its own conduct during the last brutal
months of war. We have been given a copy of the internal report in the
final stages. It found the United Nations didn't stand up for the
very people it should have protected.
The report concludes this marks a grave failure of the UN to respond
to early warning in the evolving situation.
To the detriment of hundreds of thousands of civilians. In Colombo,
many senior UN staff simply didn't perceive the prevention of killing
civilians as their responsibility. They weren't being instructed to do
otherwise from New York. In the UN they did not keep member states or
the public fully informed. A systemic failure, that should not
happen again. But how did it happen in Sri Lanka?
September 2008, the Sri Lankan Government launched its final
assault in the northern region called the Wanni. The UN base was
in the town of Kilinochchi. No UN peacekeepers were on that mission.
As fighting intensified, the Government warned UN aid workers it
couldn't guarantee their safety. The report says the UN never
questioned the Government's warning. And their departure had a severe
impact on its ability to provide aid and protect civilians.
Benjamin Dix was part of the team told to leave. I believe we should
have gone further north, not evacuate south, and basically
abandon the civilian population with no protection or witness.
how did it feel for you then on the ground? As a humanitarian worker,
questions running through my mind is what is this all about. Isn't
this what we signed up to do. We're here to protect and witness these
things. Then having to drive out of there, past these people, wearing a
helmet and flack jacket and all the protection we have because we are
international, was, I have never been so ashamed of the colour of my
skin. Those left behind protested outside
the UN compound. Begging them not to go.
I met one woman who was there that day. A school teacher, now seeking
asylum here in Britain. She asked us not to disclose her identity.
She called herself Kali. TRANSLATION: We even organised a
hunger strike, pleading with them not to leave, and to save us. But
after they left things became very bad. So many people died along the
road. So many people died because In this brutal end game, hundreds
of thousands of Tamil civilians were trapped, used as pawns by both
sides. Tamil Tigers forcibly recruited them, or used them as
human shields. By this time fighting focused on a small area,
around the towns of Mullatti vu,, and PTK, the Government designated
called no-fire zones and told civilians to go there.
But it is accused of shelling the no-fire zone, including hospitals.
The Government repeatedly denies that.
Sutu was a Sam mill journalist in the warzone, who fled to the UK
when the conflict ended. What is your worst memory of the war?
TRANSLATION: I witnessed the incident where the hospital was
bombed. There were clear science on the hospital roof that it was a
hospital. But regardless of the signs, the hospital was bombed. A
number of people died in front of my eyes. Did you try to send
messages to the UN, to the world, about what was happening?
TRANSLATION: I kept sending messages and photos of civilian
casualties, and of the bombs. I requested my contacted to tell the
world and intervene and stop the war. Many more just suffer in
silence. TRANSLATION: I was locked up in a small, dark room where I
was beaten up with wires, batons and plastic pipes. I was also
burned with cigarette butt, and they raped me. Kali's story is the
story of many Tamil, forced to work for the tigers, detained by the
Government. The report says the UN repeatedly condemned the Tamil
Tigers for serious human rights offences, but largely avoided
mention of the Government's responsibilities. This was because
the information could not be verified, according to them. But
the report says the information had been verified to a good standard.
The report notes that throughout the final stages of the bloody
conflict, the UN issued only one statement, condemning both sides.
There was a reluctance to publish casualty figures. Why did this
happen? The report explains it in this way, it said decision-making
across the UN was dominated by a culture of trade-offs, choosing not
to speak out against a Government, that was, in the words of the
report, intimidating UN staff, was seen as the only way to increase
humanitarian access. In the final stages of the war, the
Government set up what it called "welfare villages", for displaced
people emerges from the warzone. In reality, they were military-run
internment camp, to screen people suspected of involvement with the
Tamil Tiger. The UN confronted a dilemma, it had
no independent access to locations with persistent allegations of
human rights abuses. But it decided there was an imperative to provide
urgent food and medical supplies. But the report notes the
considerable consternation within the aid community over this
involvement. Sri Lankan civilians questioned it too. TRANSLATION:
They did help the people in the camps by supplying food and other
essential items, but that is not very helpful. Because we were kept
there as prisoner of the Government. It is almost like someone visiting
a prison and supplying sweets to the prisoners. It wouldn't save our
lives, and they didn't guarantee any protection for us. The report
does highlight the positive role of some UN staff on the ground, and
the secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon. But it is catagorical, there was a
systemic failure, everything from the UN's sense of the mission, and
its machinery was at fault. The UN should be the moral
conscience of the world. Edward Mortimer is a former senior UN
official, who now chairs the Sri Lanka campaign for human rights and
Jews at this. There was no UN force in Sri Lanka, but there were people
who were there to help the population, and they left actually
-- justice. There was no UN force in shrilaank, but there were people
there to help, but they left at the time the people needed them more.
The Government wanted them out of the way because they didn't want
anyone to see what was happening. You were part of the system, if
there was a systemic failure in Sri Lanka, is there any hope it can be
different? Many of us said at the time that there was a system to
protect in Sri Lanka, but it didn't the publicity that we got in Libya.
The north of Sri Lanka was effectively destroyed field by
field, and tree by and hospital by hospital. And we didn't get the
reaction. Sri Lanka doesn't have oil and is not situated on the
Mediterranean, the UN secretary should speak up and say this isn't
good enough. You may have your strategic great power interests and
rivalries, but you are also supposed to uphold certain laws and
principles, and I don't think this in this case you are doing it.
report says within the last few months of the war there was no
single engagment. They said member states were heavily influenced by
what they thought member states wanted to hear, rather than what
they needed to know if they were to respond.
The end of Sri Lanka's vicious civil war unfolded in a world which
largly looked away, as the Government vowed to crush a
terrorist group, banned in many countries, including Britain.
Now the UN says it want to learn lessons are from this conflict, as
it confronts new crises in place like Syria. It took a risk in
ordering this report, we are told it now want to act on it.
But the war in Sri Lanka won't end until there is a proper reckoning.
Many say that means an independent international investigation into
war crimes and crimes against humanity.
That would demand a kind of courage and commitment we now know the UN
didn't show throughout the years of battle.
The BB cl. Has spoken to the UN, who said -- BBC has spoken to the
UN, but said it can't comment on a leaked report, and said it will
once the report has been presented to Ban Ki-Moon.
The Sri Lankan High Commision here in the UK has chosen not to comment
in the UK has chosen not to comment on the leaked report.
Should soap operas be more political, Polly Toynbee, writer
for the Guardian today, accuses The Archers of falling silent on
Government policy and says it could lead to public disengagment. Does
popular culture have a responsibility to educate us or
include us in political discourse. Realistically could soap characters
discuss the EU Working Time Directive without sending us into a
coma. 3,000 cockroaches. There are unconfirmed reports that one of the
stars of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here has been bitten by a creepy
Crawley. But an ITV doctor said the creepy Crawley was expected make a
full recovery. Can the same be said of shrinking
violet MP Nadine Dorries, who has left her mid-Bedfordshire seat for
the outback. She said it was a better platform than the Commons
for airing her views on matters such as abortion. And the ratings
might seem to bear her out, almost ten million viewsers saw her
undergo trial by maggot last night. Maybe she has a point. People are
very cynical about politician, perhaps, if we see a politician
having to fight with a crocodile, or one of them being humiliated and
having to talk to a member of a boy band, perhaps they might get their
message across a bit more. Lucky for me that your bike got a
puncture, would you like a top-up. No I'm fine. Politicians have been
happy to tread the soap opera boards for the cameras, but some
commentators are complaining that a lack of political storylines in the
programmes themselves is unrealistic. And a lost opportunity
for engaging millions of viewers in current affairs.
Soap operas do dodge politics for two good reasons, one the British
public finds politics very dull, and secondly if you have a rampent
Labour character or Conservative, you will alienate half the audience.
Over the years there has been politics in soap operas, Sid Perk,
the republican in the Archers voted against entry into the Common
Market. And in Brookside Boby Grant was a vehement Labour shop steward.
Here is how it could work. It is not like it is a fortune, it has
over 90K on the clock. Where will we find the money. How, you work a
full day as it is. What are hard working people, who travel long
distances to get into work and pay their tacks meant to think. Why is
it, that when the oil price goes up the petrol price goes up, but when
the oil price comes down the petrol price just stays the same.
Actually, having people discussing political things, as indeed they
would, would liven the Archers up a bit. I could just imagine, I would
like to see Jacob Rees-Mogg in the corner of the Rovers Return slog it
out with a conversation about politics. Pussy cat, yes. While the
infag teetable George Galloway went, so now goes Nadine Dorries, and how
many others. It has certainly been said in the past that politic is
showbiz for ugly people. There are a lot of raging egos in Westminster,
who would absolutely love, I'm sure, Nadine's three week of glory. But
they wouldn't have the nerve to do it. If she comes through this
successfully, it is because the woman does have nerve.
It is a perfect fit, politics is a soap opera afterall, with regular
characters and recurring plot lines. But no omnibus edition.
We're joined now by Phil Redmond, the creator of Hollyoaks and
Brookside, Lembit Opik and Christine Hamilton, who amongst
other achievements have both appeared on I'm A Celebrity Get Me
Out Of Here. If I can start with you Phil, would you agree with that
assessment by Polly Toynbee that politics is largely absent from
soaps and dramas? Yeah, I would agree whole heartedly. It is
frustrating for me, because that was one of the reasons why
Brookside came to an end, really, that the political element, the
hard slog of social reality never actually sat comfortably with the
way the channel, and I think most of the television evolved towards
reality TV. Why did it come to an end? What do you mean it never sat
comfortably? I think where Brookside raison d'etre was to
focus on social issues, and they are the symptom or result of
political actions. I think early in the report, the mention of Bobby
Grant being a trade unionist, that was balanced by Paul Collins from
management, and the Huntingdons being from the professional classes,
and Gavin Taylor from the informal economy. The whole point of
Brookside was to put the different political aspect of the society in
juxtaposition, so we could have the debates. And right through the
history, the nurses were there to talk about the National Health
Service, even Frank scam Rogers, as a trucker was talking about splits
and transport. I think one of the problems was that television in the
90s drifted away from this sort of thing, trying to chase, I think it
was chasing ratings on a more cost effective basis. It got more and
more difficult to enter into contentious debates. Broadly, was
it the audience that left you, do you think the audience couldn't
handle that kind of stuff, they wanted to find it easier in
entertainment? Not at all. The strongest, most powerful moments in
Brookside's history was when we were running the Jordash story,
about domestic violence, and it was underlining about the law and how
it was slow to react and how women were treated under the law. The
lessons I have come away with on Grange Hill, Brookside and
Hollyoaks is the more challenging the story the more the audience
appreciate it. The difficulty is the overregulation of broadcasting,
and the broadcasters had the mantra of if in doubt take it out. There
is the appetite in the audience. Ten years after Brookside finished,
people are asking me why don't we have soaps to cover these political
issues. Christine, Lempit, it is your fault, you are the easily
digestible reality, I can see Phil is nodding. Of reality TV that
doesn't cover any of that stuff? don't think the average viewer, I
may be wrong, the average viewer turns on a soap, to use the
shorthand for their politics. It seems to me that you might not get
party politics, but if you get the party politics you will have each
party keeping an eagle eye on how much exposure their particular
views get. I remember way back in the 1960s when Labour was in power,
I'm already Jack, do you remember than wonderful -- I'm All right
Jack, do you remember that wonderful film, and Labour said not
to air it near general election, because it was an apolitical film.
It is hard to get the balance right. I don't feel that people want it in
their soaps. They watch soaps for escapism. You get people talking
about whether it is abortion or whatever, but you don't want party
politics. Let me let Phil respond to that. People don't go to their
7.30 for that kind of stuff? have to remember you can't just
group all soaps as a generic term. People knew exactly what Brookside
was, and when I was running Emmerdale, we knew it was
completely different. Every single character in a soap should have a
strong back story, and within that, should actually be part of their
political allegiance, that is what forms and shapes us all. Polly, in
an article today, used the phrase "looking at politics eliptically" I
think that is really the see thing. You don't go on television and put
a polemic where you talk about the consequences of political actions.
Nadine said, or one thing she was saying is she wants to use a
reality show to talk about, and give her a platform to talk about
abortion. Do you think that politicians should do
entertainment? I completely agree with Nadine's decision to go into
the jungle. That was a minority view last week, I'm glad to see
that is taking currency now. Why? Because it is authentic. Nadine is
being herself. It seems to me she's coming across quite well. It is
authentic to end up in a jungle with a load of people you don't
know on television? The situation is contrived, but she is being
herself. I think that one of the great complaints that people have
about politics is they are all grey, you can't connect with them, the
public don't really dial with politicians in a real way. She --
deal with politicians in a real way. She as coming across in the
environment of an entertainment programme that millions of people
watch. This is the big thing this is why I disagree with Phil Redmond,
politics has a low viewing on a low year and high on a high year. You
can't force people to look at politics in the bad days. Do you
buy this that we get a real politician, and it is justified
because we understand more about the real person? If Nadine had come
to me in advance, and say should I go on the show and people do it. I
have warned some people off and stopped them going on it, others,
like Carol Thatcher, you will be great, do it. She didn't ask me, I
would have said I don't think you should do it as a sitting member of
parliament. That was my view, and slightly half of me still think she
doesn't be doing it. But she is doing it. The viewing figures are
enormous and they are getting bigger. You can't hide in the
jungle, she is coming across as you are, she has been pretty brave to
expose herself in that way. Jooing I think the viewers will make the -
- I think the viewers will make the decision they always do, she will
either come out as a flake or not. You are saying it is a magnifying
glass, there is nothing wrong with it? The bigger issue, politically,
is people will ask, why is an MP, theoretically elected to represent
them taking time out to do that? She has made a good investment of
time, she has been so respected in parliament. The first time I have
ever told people to vote for a Conservative MP, is Nadine Dorries
in the jungle. What I'm really saying is what Nadine is doing here
is taking a risk, I think we all agree with that, but taking an
alternative approach. I think Phil should agree with this, at the end
of the day what she's trying 0 do is reconnect with the public.
Everybody...You Are not going to tell me people understood your Lib
Dem policies after you had had been in the jungle? No, but more people
knew me, they had a bigger opinion, I have more opportunity to access
people not inherently interested in politics. People who say it is a
publicity stunt done for money are cynics? Nadine is a little niave if
she thinks conversations about reducing the number of week when
you have an abortion will be prime time television, it is not. If she
does well and the people take to her she will have a greater
enhanced platform, she will be better known than the cabinet and
Shadow Cabinet combined. It will give her a platform to speak about
the things she feels strongly about. If more people go out, more the
disengaged voters go out as a result to recognising some of these
people, politician, that's not a bad thing, is it? That's not a bad
thing, but that is not really the issue. She could do that on any
kind of show. It is raised the awareness, that is fine. The real
issue is we don't have any political discourse on television
at the moment. Even you guys, although you have your own
political soap opera at the moment, you are more concerned about the
careers of politicians in the Westminster village than you are
with taking the issue right across. Credit for Nadine, six million
people watched that, and three million watched Question Time, I
respect her, that is the way to get politics into the mind of the
public. Most people aren't interested in politics, that is the
sad truth. Thank you very much all of you. We have run out of time, we
will take you very quickly through tomorrow's papers. The Telegraph
In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines, including gas prices, the new Chinese leadership, the UN and Sri Lankan civilians in war, and should politics and soaps mix? With Emily Maitlis.